Effective Marketing Part II–Addition

This one point deserves a few more words before covering Part III. (It deserves a LOT more words, but I’ll just touch on it.)

Talking to your customers is NOT walking in with a clipboard with a set of questions and jotting down their answers. Yes, you have a series of questions. Yes, you ask them. But this is not a quiz show where the customer gives a short answer and you ask the next question. This is a conversation with your customer, a two-way dialog where the question is really a topic that you explore. Yes, you want the answers to the questions, but if an answer contains something interesting, explore it further. Dive down that rabbit hole because there might be a nugget of information that will bust your market wide open.

You want more than raw answers, more than text on a page. You want their attitudes, their opinions, regarding not just your software or the competition, but their attitudes and opinions about the problems your software addresses.

You do want to guide the conversation. I use a set of questions but I don’t always follow them in sequence. I use the questions as topics for discussion. Ask questions and find out what makes your customers tick, what their needs are, what they really want. It may take a few questions to get them to explain it to you. You may get into territory you never expected, but that’s OK—it might just reveal an untapped market niche that you can take over and own completely.

Don’t be afraid to talk to customers. The truth is, they would love to tell someone! Nobody has asked them before! Has anyone ever asked you what you want Windows to do? I’ll bet you have some ideas that you’d love to tell, that you’re dying to tell! If someone sat down with you and sincerely asked you about how you used Windows, listened to what you had to say, I’ll bet you could talk for at least thirty minutes on what you like, what you hate and what you wish it did. And you’d just be getting warmed up. Talk to your customers and LISTEN to what they have to say. There’s gold in them thar answers! Those answers are the key to your viral growth.

Ask your customers what they need your software to do, how they like it, how it solves—or doesn’t solve—their problems. Ask about the problems and how it affects their computer usage. Ask what software they like, what software they hate, new technology trends they’re interested in.

Don’t put words in their mouth—don’t give them multiple choice questions! Let them tell you in their own words what they think. Listen, thank them for their answer, and ask another. Spend an hour, perhaps longer, and you’ll know what makes that one customer tick.

Do this with twenty-thirty customers, and you’ll have a pretty darn good idea of what your software needs to do and how it should do it. Do this with one hundred customers and you’ll know more about your market than any of your competitors, especially the big ones. (Unless they’re already doing exactly this–and it is extremely rare!)

Talk to your customers, LISTEN to your customers. Create and market the software they want and you can’t help but be successful


Effective Marketing Part II

There are three important references that should be known, plus the works of another company. I’ll be referring to these in this section. The books:

  1. Crossing the Chasm, by Geoffrey Moore
  2. Tuned In, by Craig Stull, Phil Myers and David Meerman Scott
  3. Positioning: The Battle for Your Mind, by Al Ries and Jack Trout

The company I find particularly helpful is Pragmatic Marketing. Their material is excellent and is a common-sense and practical method for marketing that gets results.

In Crossing the Chasm, Geoffrey Moore talks about the technology adoption curve and the types of customers you need to target at different stages of the growth cycle. In Tuned In, the message is simple: Get the heck out of the office and talk to customers. Positioning covers how to place your product in the minds of consumers. All important technologies.

The question this blog answers is HOW to penetrate the built-in and accumulated resistance that customers have. This applies whether you’re a new start-up, crossing chasm with the hope of making it big and viral, or already past the adoption “hump” and into the realm of a commodity.

How do you penetrate the “force field” that customers have erected against the onslaught of advertising and marketing? There are three parts to marketing effectively:

  1. Buttons
  2. Message
  3. Positioning

Buttons are the key words or phrases that catch the interest of potential customers. They are the key words or phrases that customers will respond to. This is not magic or voodoo—these are the problems that people have in their job (or their life, if your software is for personal use). The thing is, they will tell you! All you have to do is ask.

This is where market research comes into play. Sit down with a customer or potential customer, spend an hour and ask them about their job, asking questions about how they do what they do, what problems they have, how they like existing software solutions, problems with existing software solutions, their opinion of your software if it’s on the market.

Do that with about twenty to thirty customers and you’ll have a pretty good idea of what’s important. Do that with one hundred, and you’ll know conclusively what’s important. In that cross-section, there will be common denominators of what is important. There will be key words that are common that succinctly describe their problems.

Much more can be written on this topic alone, and all of it is worthwhile.

As Tuned In teaches, talk to your customers! And listen to them! FIND OUT what their problems are. Tailor your software to specifically solve those problems if it doesn’t already, tailor your marketing to address those problems and provide enough info to satisfy their curiosity about how your software solves those problems.

Believe it or not, it’s not that hard! There’s a lot of work, but it’s not rocket science—although it IS a science.

Pragmatic Marketing preaches, “Your opinion, while interesting, is irrelevant.” Your opinion is your opinion, and while you may be extremely proud of certain features and functionality in your software, how important is that functionality for your customers? Does your chest-thumping match what customers are concerned about, what they worry about? I would paraphrase Pragmatic to say “Your opinion is irrelevant. Your knowledge of what customers want is extremely relevant.”

Do you know conclusively what your customers want? Talk to them. Find out the common denominator of your market segment, your market niche. Address those problems with your solution, phrase your marketing materials to address those problems in the language and nomenclature they’re familiar with and you’re halfway there.

I’m already morphing into point #2: Message, which goes hand-in-glove with Buttons. Stay tuned for Effective Marketing Part III where I’ll cover this important topic!

Effective Marketing

Perhaps I should come up with a catchy name like “Laser Marketing.” What do you think?

In today’s over-crowded media universe, we get bombarded by a ton of advertising. It’s everywhere! Radio stations, TV, the movies, billboards, signs, web pages, newspapers, everywhere we’re bombarded by advertising!

What do we do with this avalanche of advertising? We turn it off. We ignore it. Ever watch TV with someone and they turn to you during a commercial and say, “That was pretty funny.” And you say, “What?” You totally tuned out the commercial and started thinking about something else.

As consumers, we’ve developed this built-in “No,” mechanism. Ever get approached by someone at the mall trying to sell you a helicopter or skin cream or or or? What’s your immediate reaction? “No, thank you.”

How do we get past the “No, thank you” reaction that consumers respond with automatically? With laser-precise marketing that pierces the built-up shell.

What is laser-precise marketing? It is delivering a concept or idea directly to your target audience, using words and content that speaks to them. This can use any media channel, many media channels, even every media channel.

The whole idea of marketing is to get the customer interested in your product, interested enough to find out about or find out more about your product, interested enough to listen to a salesman or contact you for more information.

My high school music teacher used to say, “practice it three times.” Once we performed a song (or the part we were working on) right, we did it twice more to really ding it in.

To ding in a marketing message to a potential customer, you need to deliver it to them multiple times through multiple channels. The more times they hear it, the better. You’ve got to get your product to stand out in their mind. If they hear it once, see it once, read it once, they’re likely to think, “Oh yeah, that can solve X for me.” But it doesn’t stick.

I came across an ad once for a software mock-up tool. Something that you could create software UIs that would look and feel like the real thing. Clicking on menus or links would move to another mock-up page. This is very helpful for testing software usability before you code it. Their ad spoke to me, it communicated clearly what their product did and it stuck in my mind. The problem is, I can’t remember the name of the software or who the company is so I can’t find that product to test. Is this a problem with the ad? No!—it did it’s job. I saw the ad, it caught my attention, passed it along to the guy who was responsible for creating mock-ups.

Now that I need to prototype some software, I need to find a tool that does that. I’d like to test that software and see how good it is. The problem is, I can’t remember which one it is! The ad pierced my built-up resistance and spoke to me, only I haven’t seen the ad or similar ads enough times for the product or company to become fixed in my mind as the go-to solution.

It’s the “three times” rule—there has to be enough exposure for it stick in a person’s mind.

Now, how do you pierce the shell and get the customer’s attention in the first place? That’s the next blog!

Is Word of Mouth Advertising Any Good?

I’m preaching that you need great marketing to go viral, but we’ve all heard stories—true stories—where word of mouth advertising is the best advertising.

I completely agree. If a customer is blown away by your product and your service, he or she will tell friends, and when they experience the same thing, they tell their friends, and so on and so on. And pretty soon there’s an avalanche!

Of course, this assumes that you have a great product and service the hell out of the customer, two of the three pillars of going viral. Let’s assume that.

The question is, how do they hear about you in the first place? Even the Harry Potter series started slowly and required a marketing campaign to cause the grass-roots interest that then exploded.

How do you get that great, incredible, absolutely unbelievable software into a few hands to start with?

Marketing. You’ve got to identify your target audience, present your product to them in a way they’ll be receptive to, interest them in trying and using your software, and blow them away. THEN that one user will tell others.

Depending on your market (or market niche) you’ll need to repeat that process with hundreds, perhaps thousands or even tens of thousands of people until that spontaneous combustion occurs and the product takes off.

Where Marketing comes into play—and I’m including PR as part of this (pardon my latitude, PR experts)—is getting your product message and then your great product in front of enough eyeballs so that word of mouth explodes and you can sit back and fill orders.

Until that happens, you have to Market your product to your target customers with a passion. You have to commit the funds to pay for your gorgeous website, create attractive and effective emails, attend trade shows, send out postcards, print product brochures, pay for banner ads, and continue these actions once the viral explosion starts.

To draw an analogy, marketing is the kindling to get the fire going. Once it’s roaring, you don’t need the kindling any more and how you market changes.

Geoffrey Moore’s books, Crossing the Chasm and Inside the Tornado, cover the types of people and companies you market to. Read those books and apply them!

What they don’t tell you is how to market effectively to the different types of customers at each stage of the adoption curve. That’s what this blog addressed.